Play It Safe When Working Out

Participation in sports, recreation, and exercise is increasingly popular and widespread in the United States. While this is good news because activities like soccer, basketball, and weight training can contribute to better health, the risk of injury inheres in any physical activity. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 10,000 people receive treatment in our nation’s emergency departments each day for injuries sustained in sports, recreation, and exercise activities.

“Most sports injuries are the result of inadequate instruction or training, structural defects in the body, and weaknesses in the body,” says Dr. Scott Walsh, an orthopedic specialist at Saline Memorial Hospital. “For this reason, understanding proper technique, understanding your general health, and listening to your body are paramount in preventing injuries.” 

Consider these tips for helping ensure your next workout or game is safe and pain-free:

1. Visit your doctor before beginning a new exercise/sports program, and then commit to routine physicals. Your doctor can help you determine the appropriate type and amount of exercise. He or she can also help you identify potential problems before they occur. 

2.Consider a personal trainer or ask for help before using unfamiliar gym equipment. 

3. If you’re participating in a sport, make sure you use the proper gear—even when you’re just practicing. It’s also important to have a clear understanding of the rules of the game.

4.Always warm up before you exercise. A gradual warm-up can go a long way to prevent injuries. Your warm-up can consist of stretching, walking, jogging, or simply doing your regular activity at a much slower pace. 

5. Don’t work out on empty. While you don’t want to exercise immediately after eating a large meal, eating about two hours before exercise can help fuel your exercise. 

6. Stay hydrated. Try to drink at least 16 ounces of water in the two hours before your workout, and then take in water throughout your workout to replace any lost fluids. 

7. Gradually increase time and intensity. When starting an exercise program, it’s easy to go too hard, too soon. Begin with moderate exercise—about 20 minutes, three times per week—and then gradually build up.

8.Cross-train. In addition to helping reduce workout boredom, cross-training allows you to get a full-body workout without overstressing certain muscle groups. 

9. Listen to your body. If you experience any sharp pain, weakness, or light-headedness, pay attention. This is your body’s signal that something is wrong and you should stop what you’re doing. Pushing through acute pain is the fastest way to develop a severe or chronic injury. 

10. Take time for rest and recovery. In addition to getting enough sleep, it is important to take some rest days. Working out too much for too long can lead to fatigue and injury and possibly reduce your immunity. 

“I can’t stress enough how important it is to rest when you’re tired or hurt,” Walsh said. “While you’re healing, you can try another activity that doesn’t stress the injured area. Slowly resume your regular activity only when you’re free of pain.”

If you’ve strained or sprained a muscle, ligament, tendon, or bone, Walsh suggests the R.I.C.E. treatment:

• Rest – the injured area for at least 24 to 48 hours.

• Ice – apply ice or cold packs for 10 minutes several times a day for the first 72 hours.

• Compression – wrap the injury with an Ace bandage to help with swelling, but not too tightly.

• Elevation – elevate the injured area on pillows whenever you’re sitting or lying down.

If an injury or joint pain is keeping you from being active, the orthopedic team at Saline Memorial Hospital can help. Contact 501.387.0163 or visit to find an orthopedic specialist. find an orthopedic specialist.